Formation of United Nations
The League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations was established in 1919 “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.” However, after failing to prevent the Second World War, the League of Nations was disbanded.
During August to October 1944, representatives from China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States met to discuss a new ‘United Nations’ (UN) to replace the League of Nations, in order to stop future wars and provide a platform for dialogue between countries.
Then, in 1945, representatives of 50 countries attended the United Nations Conference on International Organisation in order to ratify a new ‘ Nations Charter’. The Charter was signed on 25 June 1945. The UN came into existence on 24 October 1945. Because of the end of colonialism and the break-up of countries such as the USSR and Yugoslavia, the number of independent countries grew. Currently, the UN has 193 member countries.
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Over the next three years the UN established a number of agreements, culminating, on 10 December 1948, with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Responding to the horrors and atrocities committed during the Second World War, the founders of the UN intended the Charter to be a “vision of what the world should be”.
The Charter, a treaty between countries, is enshrined in international law. Whilst the Charter states that all member countries must promote observance of human rights, the United Nations does not have the power to implement them
The UN aims to seek solutions to issues, conflicts and crises in a peaceful manner. The UN Charter is a set of guidelines which explains the rights and responsibilities of member Countries.
4 Major Purposes
The UN has four purposes, which are contained in Article 1 of the UN Charter:
- To maintain international peace and security,
- To develop friendly relations among nations
- To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems
- To be a centre for harmonising the actions of nations
Due to its unique international character, and the powers vested in its founding Charter, the UN can take action on a wide range of issues, and provide a forum for its 193 Member Countries to express their views, through the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and other bodies and committees.
Although best known for peacekeeping, peacebuilding, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance, there are many other ways the “UN System” – which includes agencies like UNICEF and the World Food Programme, as well as integovernmental bodies like the Security Council – affects our lives and makes the world a better place.
The UN works on a broad range of fundamental issues, from sustainable development, environment and refugee protection, disaster relief, counter terrorism, disarmament and non-proliferation, to promoting democracy, human rights, gender equality and the advancement of women, governance, economic and social development and international health, clearing landmines, expanding food production, and more, in order to achieve its goals and coordinate efforts for a safer world for this and future generations.
The purposes are upheld by certain principles, contained in Article 2 of the UN Charter
- The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
- All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership,
- All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
- All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any country,
- All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter,
- The Organization shall ensure that countries which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any country or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter;
The UN Charter provides for the suspension or expulsion of a member country which does not adhere to the Charter principles. This has not happened so far, but South Africa ‘suspended itself’ by withdrawing when the country was run under the apartheid system.